- Says no money missing from emirate’s account
Yemi Ajayi in Lagos and Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, has dismissed allegations by the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission that under his watch, the Emirate Council misappropriated a total sum of N3.5 billion.
Sanusi, in a rebuttal of the 13-point allegations levelled against him by the commission, which has also gone ahead to recommend his suspension to Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, attributed the accusations to a misunderstanding of how the Emirate Council functions by the petitioners and the commission.
The moves to suspend the monarch, however, got the support of a coalition of civil society group, Network of Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria, which yesterday commended the commission for recommending the suspension of the emir.
In the 10-page defence, signed by the Acting Secretary, Kano Emirate Council, Alhaji Abba Yusuf, a copy of which THISDAY exclusively obtained yesterday, the monarch said no money was missing under his superintendence.
The defence, apparently predated the intervention of Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and a business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, who hails from Kano State, that led to the brokerage of peace between the emir and Ganduje, in a bid to restore normalcy in the state.
According to him, the emirate is also not involved in any shady deal as contained in the petition, which formed the basis of the on-going probe of the emirate by the commission.
The undated document containing his defence and titled: “Kano Emirate Council Secretariat, Without Prejudice,” is in response to the full Interim Report of investigation by the state anti-corruption commission whose highlights of the 19-page document include the indictment of individuals, amounts involved, obstruction of investigation by suspects and recommendations.
Issues addressed in the document are, however, different from the emir’s response to the query given to him by the Kano State Government, in which he was mandated to respond to some allegations levelled against him by the state anti-graft commission.
In his response to the first allegation that the emirate council misappropriated N3.5 billion between 2014 and 2017, Sanusi said: “This allegation and other similar ones have been refuted since 2017 by the Walin Kano, Controller of Finance, Kano Emirate Council. The total amount in the Emirate Council, when Emir Muhammad Sanusi II was appointed was N1.8 billion. The Councillor, Controller of Finance… has given clear explanations refuting allegations of irregular expenditure by the council.”
Sanusi also refuted the allegation that the emirate council spent over N360 million for the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) in the palace.
According to him, while he is not the accounting officer of the emirate council, the contract for the installation of the CCTV was awarded in the height of Boko Haram insurgency in the state based on a directive by the state government.
“It should, however, be noted that only two CCTV surveillance systems were installed in both the Main and Nasarawa Palaces at the cost of N7,339,545, representing only 2.36 percent of the total contract of N311,130,000 as against the alleged N360 million.
“Apart from the CCTV cameras, the main security gadgets in the contract awarded to three different companies include X-ray baggage scanners, three walk-through metal detectors, two sets of under-vehicle scanners. Other are retractable bollards, four conventional bomb/IED scanners, four X-ray and Thermal scanners, all at the total cost of N303,660,455, which represents 97.64 percent of the contract. The total amount disbursed on all these contracts was about N192,00(sic) as some of the works were yet to be completed,” the emir added.
He also dismissed allegations that the emirate council failed to forward its budget estimates to the appropriate authority and that from 2013 to 2017 N15 million only was approved annually by the state Ministry of Planning and Budget as budget for the emirate council.
In refuting the claims, Sanusi said the emirate council each year prepared detailed estimates of its revenue and financial expenditure, which once approved, are sent to the Ministry of Local Government.
In addition, he disputed the claim by the Ministry of Planning and Budget that N15 million is approved yearly as budget for the emirate council.
According to him, contrary to the claim, the emirate council prepares its detailed budget based on statutory allocation projections of funds to be received for the local government councils within the emirate (3%) and the state government(10%) of the total contributions of the local governments.
He said from 2014 to 2017, while the approved budgets of the emirate council totalled N12.5 billion, only a total of N2.23 billion was released; representing a shortfall of N10 billion in four years.
He denied the allegations that the emirate council violated Section 120 of the 1999 Constitution(as amended), Section II of the Kano Emirate Council Special Fund Law 2004 and Section 20 of the state Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Law 2008(as amended) by approving its budget itself.
He said that could not have been the case as the emirate council usually forward its budget, after preparations, to the Ministry of Local Government “for their necessary action.”
On the sixth allegation that the emirate council spent money without following due process and transferred huge sums of money to bank accounts of some unregistered or dormant companies, Sanusi expressed surprise about the allegation.
He said all the companies were duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission(CAC) and submitted their certificates of incorporation/registration numbers.
On the claims that the emirate council spent N43.26 million in 2014 on fuelling generators, N39.69 in 2015; N22.31 million in 2016 and N12.49 million for the same purpose in 2017, triggering a disparity in the amount spent and the ratio of fuel consumption, Sanusi said a motive to steal public funds should not be attributed to the spending pattern.
He added that the figures referred to “fuelling of not only generators but also motor vehicles belonging to the emirate council.
He attributed the seeming discrepancies in the spending pattern to vagaries in the price of fuel, availability of electricity and the number of vehicles and generators fuelled.
Responding to the ninth allegation that the discovery by the commission, during investigation, of the transfer of N105.59 million from the emirate council’s account between 2014 and 2017 to an account opened in the name of one Sanusi Tijjani, a technical officer to the emirate council at tier-1 bank raised a red flag of corruption, the emir said: “These are funds reimbursed over a period of four years for the purchase of materials, minor repairs and labour for jobs carried out through direct labour to the technical officer.”
On the allegations that the emirate council spent N54.11 million on phone calls and internet connections between 2014 and 2017, out of which N29 million was incurred by Sanusi, his wives and Munnir Sanusi, the emir said most of the charges were due to roaming of his mobile line, and were provided for in the emirate council’s approved budgets.
He also disputed the allegation that it amounted to a “criminal breach of trust” for the emirate council to spend N144.36 million on hotel accommodation, payment of chartered flights and air tickets between 2014 and 2017.
He said the accusation of a criminal breach of trust was baseless as “transport and accommodation expenses for the emir and entourage are legitimate. The Emir represents an institution and does not travel anywhere as a private person.”
“His office requires him to present himself at all times accompanied by a retinue of officials. Only on two occasions, borne out of necessity, were chartered flights used in the last five years,” he added.
He denied any shady deal in the award of a contract for the renovation of Babban Daki, saying the contract was duly awarded to Tri-C Nigeria Limited by the Kano State Ministry of Works and not by the emirate council.
In explaining the seeming lack of cooperation of some emirate council officials with the anti-graft commission in probing the petition against the council and undermining the commission’s activities, Sanusi said he could not be held responsible for that.
According to him, three of the officials—Munnir Sanusi, Mujitaba Abba and Muhammad Sani Kwaru—in deciding to exercise their fundamental rights, sought and obtained an order of the court that restrained the commission from forcing them to appear before it pending the determination of their suit against the agency.
In his reply to an earlier query, dated June 6, 2019 and signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Sanusi, through Yusuf, had said as at the time he was installed as the emir, the emirate council had only N1.9 billion in its accounts.
Group Backs Moves to Suspend Emir
Meanwhile, the Network of Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria, at a press conference Thursday in Abuja, commended the state anti-graft commission for recommending the suspension of Sanusi, describing it as a bold step in the fight against corruption.
The President of the group, Victor Kalu, said the suspension would speed up the investigation into the allegations against the emir as he would no longer be in a position to delay or interfere in the probe.
Kalu, however, said if after investigation, the emir was found innocent, the government should not hesitate to reinstate him with all his entitlements.
But should he be found guilty, the emir should be made to face the full weight of the law, he added.
He said the group’s position was occasioned by the alleged refusal of Sanusi to honour several invitations by the Kano State Government to defend himself against the allegations.